Clinical touch evades hosting Newmarket
THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE
Newmarket Town 0
Haverhill Rovers 0
His side averaged just over three goals a game in 2016/17, but this time around it has not yet been quite as free-flowing for Kevin Grainger’s Newmarket Town.
Held to a 0-0 draw by Stowmarket Town on Saturday, the hosting Jockeys drew another blank on Tuesday night against a resilient Haverhill Rovers side.
For context, Newmarket played out just one goalless draw during the entirety of last term.
It was not for the want of trying against Haverhill, with Newmarket spending the majority of the 90 minutes camped in the opposition’s half.
But, a combination of wayward finishing and smart work from visiting goalkeeper Charlie Turner meant it was a frustrating evening for Grainger and his charges.
The new campaign may still be in its infancy, but Newmarket find themselves 10 points off early pacesetters Coggeshall Town, albeit having played two games less.
Even so, Grainger has admitted his men need to rediscover their shooting boots quickly, starting with Saturday’s home encounter against Kirkley & Pakefield (3pm).
“It is frustrating. Last season the goals were so free-flowing, but it is not happening at the moment,” said Grainger, whose new signing Chris Bacon was sidelined through illness.
“We have not really connected as a team, but how many chances have we had tonight? I lost count.
“If we scored the first, other goals would have probably followed but it would not go in.
“We cannot keep dropping points because if we do, we will not be up there.
“We needed to get on a winning run starting tonight — that is gone now. Kirkley has become a very big game. We need to get consecutive wins on the board.”
The tone was set very early on as the home side created a flurry of chances with Joe Bennett heading over, Scott Paterson dragging a shot from distance wide and Rovers’ goalkeeper Charlie Turner showing good reactions to keep out Stephen Spriggs.
In the 21st minute Newmarket carved out another opening when full-back Jamie Thurlbourne — whose accurate left foot caused problems all night — picked out Lewis Whitehead, but with the angle against the Newmarket striker, Turner pushed his effort behind for a corner.
The pressure continued throughout the first half, but Rovers also posed a threat of their own on occasions.
Marcus Hunt will probably feel he should have done better after meeting Marc Abbott’s corner unmarked in the 23rd minute, while Rory Jebb — on for Wozniak — forced a save out of former Rovers’ goalkeeper Alex Archer.
The one-way traffic remained a staple of the second half, with Turner having to be at his best to keep the scoreline blank.
He first thwarted Bennett in the 54th minute after Hunt had been caught dallying in possession, before Whitehead raced clear on to Austen Diaper’s flick on, only to find his route to goal blocked by the Haverhill number one.
Turner’s resistance was finally broken in the 69th minute, but the referee’s assistant came to Haverhill’s rescue when he flagged for offside.
Paterson played the ball out wide to the right for Spriggs and continued his run into the box.
Nobody could make a connection with Spriggs’ teasing cross, but the chance was kept alive by Bennett, who picked out the onrushing Paterson.
His finish beat a helpless Turner, but Diaper — still on the floor after trying to turn in Spriggs’ centre — inadvertently deflected the ball into the net from his position beyond the last defender.
Eleven minutes later it was a similar story — this time it was Whitehead’s celebrations cut short by the flag following Turner’s smart stop down low to frustrate Paterson.
And Newmarket’s irritation almost intensified deep into stoppage time when Rovers’ Jebb had three chances in quick succession to steal the three points.
His first shot was blocked, the second stopped by Archer and the third was deflected over the crossbar.
There was still enough time left for one final chance to fall Newmarket’s way when Harry Halls hauled down substitute Deakan Napier, but Thurlbourne could not keep the resultant free-kick on target.
Newmarket: Archer, Seymour (Groves 83), Thurlbourne, Lambert, Bowen, Watson, Bennett (Napier 77), Paterson, Whitehead (Holder 83), Diaper, Spriggs
Journal Man of the Match - Jamie Thurlbourne: His accuracy from left-back created so many good openings for the home team
n After entertaining Kirkley at the weekend, 12th-placed Newmarket travel to Godmanchester Rovers on Wednesday night (7.45pm).
Rovers have won only one of their six league matches to date, which came on August 12.
Newmarket have a host of former Godmanchester players within their ranks, including Austen Diaper, Charlie Bowen, Lloyd Groves and captain Jack Watson.